Sauternes is one of the most remarkable wines of Bordeaux. Produced from white grapes, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, it is usually a sweet wine. With the warm, humid climate, the grapes become infected with Botrytis cinerea, "the noble rot," a mold that causes grapes to become partially raisined, producing wines of considerable sweetness. This does not always occur. In some years only semi sweet or dry wines are produced depending in the growth of Botrytis cinerea. Sweet Sauternes age well. In youth, they are amiable sweet wines, suitable with desserts, especially tarts. As they age, they become drier as the sugars oxidize and acquire a caramelized taste, with the botrytis imparting a distinctive, fungal, nutted taste. These aged Sauternes make superb accompaniments to foie gras and Roquefort cheese.
On Thursday, May 18th, Philippe Michel hosted a tasting pf Sauternes from the 2005 and older vintages for the SOB (Sons of Bacchus) wine tasting group. Philippe supplied most of the wines from his cellar and others brought interesting wines. Because of the nature of Sauternes, there was not much agreement as to the favorites. That depended on individual preferences for highly botrytised wines or higher fruit acid ones. Here is a rundown of the most interesting wines, with my notes and scored, not in any particular order.
2003 Chateau Rieussec, Sauternes - This showed a deep amber color and a maturing nose of dried fruits and banana flambé, with nuts and spices. Elegantly styled, with considerable botrytis, a bit low in acid. 19+/20 points.
2003 Chateau Coutet, Sauternes-Barsac - Deep amber colored with an oxidative nose of dried fruits and butterscotch. The flavors were viscous, nearly dry, with nutted botrytis undertones and a long, complex finish. 19+/20 points.
2005 Chateau Guiraud, Sauternes - Deep amber colored, with a nutted nose of dried flowers and fruits. The flavors showed notes of honey, clover and creme brulée, and a long botrytis finish. A classic. 19.5/20 points.
1988 Chateau Lafaurie-Peraguey, Sauternes - This was a fine example of an aged Sauternes. Amber colored, it showed complex aromas of dried fruits, orange peel and caramel, with faintly honeyed flavors. Fine acidity has enabled this wine to age well, even though from a drier year without much botrytis. It was one of my favorites, but not by most tasters. 19.5/20 points.
2005 Chateau La Tour Blanche, Sauternes - Medium amber colored, this showed floral aromas of wildflowers, nuts and a hint of butterscotch. The flavors were rich and viscous, with a long, complex, spiced, nutted finish. Exquisitely styled. 19+/20 points.
1989 Chateau Sudiraut, Sauternes - This was an interesting example of an aged Sauternes. Medium copper colored, it showed a mature nose of dried flowers and fruits. The flavors were nearly dry, with a distinctive nuttiness. Past its peak, it lacked fruit acidity and complexity. 18.5/20 points.
Thanks to Philippe Michel for hosting this tasting and supplying nuts, dried fruits, Roquefort cheese and unforgettable mousse de foie gras. A superb tasting.